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Discussing the principles of an open spirituality

Lawrence Wollersheim has published a substantial text proposing some general principles for developing and practicing an open source spirituality.

The text is very long and is pubished here at http://www.integralworld.net/wollersheim3.html, and because of its lenght, I propose to discuss them in batches, so here are the first four.


1.) On Its Prime Focus

The most important focus of open source integral spirituality is the common core and essence of all religion. It is one's continually expanding and deepening direct personal experiences with the Ever Present Origin of All Reality, improving one's balanced practice of the virtues, and achieving spiritual completeness. (Spirituality is the innermost and most critical essence of all religion as opposed to religion's outermost characteristics such as its social beliefs, doctrines, rituals and organizational structures, authorities and hierarchies.)

2.) On Diversity

This is an open source movement! It encourages many individuals, organizations and teachers of spiritual wisdom to contribute their wisdom to the open source integral spirituality collaboration.

This diversity is essential to an unending search for additional and broader spiritual truth and is vital for making spiritual wisdom accessible to the great variety of personalities, learning styles, psychological developmental levels and cultures. Though different in abilities, all are equal in spiritual dignity and can act as co-creators of the global spiritual commons. –

3.) On Personal Spiritual Choice and Authority

Every mentally sound person already possesses the internal means to be their own highest spiritual authority for discerning spiritual truth for their own spiritual path. This implies that each individual is their own highest spiritual authority. –

4.) On Organizational Spiritual Authority and Revelation

In the global spiritual commons and in the open source integral spirituality movement it is necessary that there are no highest Popes, Bishops, Avatars, Gurus, Rabbis, Imams, etc. or, any religious hierarchy of final spiritual authority or religious orthodoxy outside the spiritual authority of the individual. No one spiritual source, spiritual teacher, founder, leader or organization has the universal or final spiritual authority on what is authentic or appropriate spiritual wisdom, spiritual truth or spiritual law for anyone other than themselves.

From this date of this original declaration's creation forward, the above paragraph naturally infers that there is also no longer recognition of special, exclusive, ongoing or final spiritual revelation being presented by the Ever Present Origin uniquely or solely to one individual or to one organization that is applicable to or for anyone beyond the specific individual who received it. While we do accept the possibility of unique personal revelation/guidance in terms of the communication quality possible within the relationship of the individual to the Ever Present Origin, we do not hold that this unique personal revelation/guidance can or should be held out as authentic or final religious or spiritual truth, law or authority for anyone or any organization except possible for the individual who received it and, then only if they themselves judge and accept it to be religious or spiritual truth, law or authority for themselves.

Religious revelation intended or decreed as final, authoritative or as religious law for anyone or any group other than for the unique, single individual who received it is an area of religion and spirituality historically fraught with abuse and misuse and the source of much of the current religious strive in the world today. Furthermore, by its very claim to be authentic or final religious/spiritual revelation for a group or mankind there is not only no real objective way to disprove it, there is also no real objective way to prove it either.

Revelation because it cannot be proven or un-proven, has most often been something that not only divides people, but often historically has served as the rational for violence against disbelievers of some particular revelation. Revelation that confers special or exclusive privileges, rights, roles, responsibilities, religious law, authority or property on or over a select few or special group is even further suspect in that the message of the revelation is not inclusive, universal or just and, by its nature congruent with those prime qualities within the Ever Present Origin.

If you do believe that Divinity will in fact, continue to disclose more of its infinite self and aspects to humanity in revelation as time goes on, maybe the Divine when the time was right has always intended to eventually disclose more of itself through a new multi-religious open source, co-creative process where the combination of insights and wisdom from all religions will offer a bigger, broader and, more clear and accurate picture of Divinity than the revelational perspective of any one religion. Maybe, at this time in history we have finally now both become and really are all vital spiritual and moral partners who are equal-opportunity, (open source) co-revealers of the endless and expanding truths about Divinity.

Maybe for our post-postmodern times, the revealing of the endless and expanding truths about Divinity is now better executed by a continuous and collaborative group effort rather than by only a progressive or exclusive single revelatory effort by any one religion. Maybe, continuous group efforts to accelerate the revealing of the expanding new truths about Divinity is the appropriate evolutionary step ladder now needed for these times for our new revelations where later revelations are no longer viewed as either final or even necessarily superior to earlier revelations, but instead new revelations are viewed as a just another beautiful pearl to be added to a string of pearls that can grow into endless strands.

Maybe, from the very beginning of our spiritual history (although we did not know it then,) the endless expanding truth about infinite Divinity has always been far, far too great for any one religion to hold. And just maybe, while the absolute truth of Divinity may always be one, we still may need the many different religious paths to start us out, but then it will be the combined best wisdom from all the religions that will keep us on our way most effectively and efficiently to the greatest spiritual heights possible.

In dealing with all previous spiritual claims by individuals or religious organizations that that they have received a special, exclusive, ongoing, authoritative or final spiritual revelation that does or does not bind or confer special or exclusive privileges, rights, roles, responsibilities, laws, authority or property on or over a select few or special group (other than over only the unique individual receiver of that revelation) the open source movement intentionally does not at this time address the validity of such claims and takes no official position toward such claims of past revelation. The global spiritual commons will provide additional insights on this, but we leave this for each individual to work out as an issue of personal faith for themselves.

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Thank you Mushin,

I won't insist as this really isn't the proper place to discuss Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda.

Back to open spirituality ;-)

Well, this is turning into a great conversation already!

I am glad, Michel, that you have taken the step of opening this subject up to collective inquiry, and I am glad that Lawrence took the intrepid step of getting all these principles down on paper for us then to take potshots at. Thank you, thank you, Lawrence!

I must say, I haven't been able to read the whole text - I find the language forbidding and legalistic and nothing like my experience of spirituality, which is luminous and light. Way too much hedging around and fear of not covering absolutely all the bases (and above them and underneath them...).

Principle 1 - Prime Focus

I had the same gut reaction as Michel and Mushin to the assumption of a common core and essence, and the "EPOAR" (ever-present origin of all reality). These really are wopping assumptions, that probably come from reading too much Ken Wilber. Which I, too, am guilty of. (And I remain a huge admirer of his, just not a worshipper :-)) But a healthy dose of Mushin, Michel and a gradual coming-to-my-own-senses have blasted me wide open to the blindness of this assumption (well, all assumptions are basically blind, I suppose). And having the bottom ripped out of my certainty has put me firmly on a totally different spiritual path that has very little to do with any wisdom from other spiritual sources and everything to do with direct, moment-to-moment inquiry - preferably in a space of 'we-fullness' or co-inquiry.

Principle 2 - on diversity

Throughout the text, I keep stumbling on the word 'integrally-informed'. If being integrally informed is a requirement for contributing to the spiritual global commons, I'm afraid it won't be very inclusive - at least not at this stage in human evolution...

"Though different in abilities, all are equal inspiritual dignity" - OK, but then, in Principle 3 - on personal spiritual choice and authority, we get "This implies that each individual is their own highest spiritual authority" (Principle 4 is shot through with this one as well). There's an awful lot of evidence out there that 70% of adults in the developed world have not yet reached attained a level of socio-emotional development where they can be called "self-authoring". One way for those people to get there is through the mentorship of others whom they admire and aspire to emulate. And while we might find it reprehensible for 'gurus' to sit above their congregations, I, for one, would not be where I am today if I had not found a realised master prepared to let me sit within his aura to crank up my vibrations until I could do it for myself.

I think what I am saying here is that I sense a lot of espousal in this document, of Wilberian integral doctrine - despite disclaimers to the contrary. I don't like being told what I will find as my spiritual quest unfolds. I want a community that is itself genuinely inquiring from a place of not knowing.

Which is not to say that very many souls won't be thoroughly nourished by what is being offered here. But somehow I'm smelling a paradox, because there's a voice of authority saying - "this is how it's going to be; such and such is not allowed, and such and such is taken as being ultimately true" and all the while saying "there is no authority and everybody is free to believe whatever they want as long as they don't try imposing it on anyone else or even persuading anybody else from their own belief".

And then again, it's past my bedtime, so perhaps I'm getting fractious!
Having looked at Principle 1, and found it lacking some of the basic realities as they seem to unfold in my understanding, and feeling in good company here ;-) I would also critique that having to be "integrally informed" is not something I aspire to, or even deem necessary to aspire to.
Being informed by one's practice is good enough to become part of something that could be called 'open source spirituality.'
I would even support a move to totally drop the term 'integral spirituality' in 'open source integral spirituality' altogether, as it suggests with its name that other forms of spirituality are not integral. If we take integral to mean "dealing with the body, mind, heart, soul and spirit" there are many traditions which would need to be called integral...

"Integrally informed" as it is used in this piece is actually an act of separating this 'movement' out and placing it at the top of a developmental pyramid as something superior to the not-so-integrally informed. Not very 'open source' is it?

Positioning "equality in spiritual dignity" as a cornerstone in Principle 2 on diversity is only logical if you move from the conviction that there actually is an "EPOAR" (ever-present origin of all reality). The German constitution in it's very first article states it clear without needing to fall back on EPOAR when it says, "Die Würde des Menschen ist unantastbar"; the dignity of man is indefeasible. Actually being open to diversity as it is an expression of man's dignity as man - we simply are diverse - seems to be natural once one has overcome the basic 'egoic' (as in self-centered) aspirations and seen through some basic delusions connected with that perspective.

And then we have to, indeed, deal with the fact that as Helen says, probably "70% of adults in the developed world have not yet reached attained a level of socio-emotional development where they can be called "self-authoring."
And as much as I don't like it, the pre-21st century spirituality and even much more some of the therapies put one into a position where 'self-authoring' is really possibly. I have high hopes that over time an 'open source spirituality' or some such will develop that also helps people to move to such a developmental stage much faster.
"I have high hopes that over time an 'open source spirituality' or some such will develop that also helps people to move to such a developmental stage much faster."

So this is what I would propose as the focus of inquiry. What might practices which help people shift stages "much faster" look like? In my experience (which is not tested, but could be testable, if we really wanted to go down that road - which I'm not sure we do, despite what is said in integral circles about upper-right quadrant credibility for the masses) practices that are collective go much faster.

Then again, it might be useful to examine the assumption that these things have to happen fast?
Then again, it might be useful to examine the assumption that these things have to happen fast...

Indeed we should, I believe.

Spirituality has all the time in the world, and it would appear that the individual concerned must set the pace.

Encouragement yes, availability of the best knowledge yes, but in the end ... each one must do the learning themselves - or be permitted not to do it if they so desire.
O, I do think we could definitely need some more speed! I don't know if it is needed, but it surely is wanted - by me and a couple of other folks ;-)

And, again, maybe stirring up a hornets nest here, I do not feel that we are to permit (or forbid) people to learn or not learn as they please. Actually not learning is endangering ... to others as well. So as much as I'm not in the business to enforce learning (if ever that is truly possible), I also want to call a spade a spade. And that means that not learning to transcend egoic boundaries and behaviors is no good. No good at all.

The other day we were discussing with the 14 year old daughter of my girlfriend what to do if a clearly obese person sits next to us in a restaurant and eats large pieces of cake. Should we, instead of turning away in disgust (which we found out to be our common feeling), maybe speak up?
We all finally agreed that even though we "have the strong desire to help them overcome obesity" (14 year old F.) it would be counter productive to turn to them saying, "Please stop this self-destructive behavior," or something similar.
We actually didn't come to a conclusion as to what we should do - or even truly want to do - which clearly shows the dilemma we find ourselves in when confronted with behavior and sometimes people's opinions.

So encouragement, certainly, and also some level headed critique at times when it can be given in an appreciative way; this seems the most effective generally.
But sometimes we might need to actually stand up and say, "Stop stuffing yourself and start to take care..."
I think this piece by Lawrence has to be read in the full context of it as presented at www.integrativespirituality.org. My comments in the attached file are in relation to the whole of this much longer version.
John, thank you so much for this. You clearly and succinctly express what I have been grappling with in some discomfort since reading the OSIS manifesto, and your response also points out what appears to be the (or a) developmental dialectic of consciousness: that to which we once were subject becomes an object of our awareness.

As someone who achieved much development through following Wilberian integral theory, I remember what it felt like (very liberating, actually ;-)) to be inside the paradigm and to see everything through its lenses as if it were the TRUTH. With time, more experience and interaction with other beings not submerged in the Wilberian brew, I can see the cauldron, in a space with other containers, and turn my attention more to direct experience of... what? And inquiry into that.
Thank you John for this very insightful and clarifying piece. Breaking the endeavor down two three Source Codes, one stacked on top of or embedded in the other, has helped me understand this piece and my own gut-felt and intuitive response much better.
I might be overly fractious, under-glycemicised and uncomprehending in this reply.

No, I believe your questions are important.

As I see it, open source spirituality could provide a place where an individual may go for information on what is available, where identities and differences between what various religious and spiritual practices propose are highlighted, perhaps each point arranged in a scale of ranking from "most likely" to "most unlikely", and always open for new input, both on evaluation and on new points to add, from organized and individual efforts and observations.

The ranking should probably not depend on whether the contribution is from an individual or from an organized effort, but solely on the evaluation of the individuals who participate in the process.

I agree that focus should be on spirituality, whether or not that is seen as the common core and essence of all religion, as said in point 1.

Contribution should be open to both individuals and organized efforts, as said in point 2.

The choice should be each individual's, and the final authority over that choice is the individual as in point 3.

And finally, as in point 4, there should not be any authority higher than that of the combined input and evaluations from the individuals involved.

Other than those basic points, everything should be open and remain to be open and continually adjustable as our collective experiences and insights grow and crystallize into a body of spiritual knowledge that is based on multiple inputs.
Hi Simon,

I now have read your final question a couple of times, but can't make out what it is about. Maybe you can clarify?
Hi Simon,

regarding to your last paragraph: I think indeed that is what we should do.

It is what I'm trying to do with the P2P Foundation: it is a pluralist network, but at the same time, I present my ideas in it, but not speaking for anybody else, it is just 'my code', and other codes are welcome. Of course, some boundaries may be set, for example, no sexism/racism etc.. As we define it here, 'you have to be 'for P2P', but how we get from here to there is open ....

OSIS could have similar boundaries, but allowing the code to be open,





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